Joel, Solomon Barnato

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JOEL, SOLOMON BARNATO (1865–1931), South African mining magnate and financier. He was one of three brothers, sons of a Whitechapel shopkeeper and nephews of Barney *Barnato. They succeeded to Barnato's financial empire after his suicide in 1897. Joel (who was known as "Solly Joel") and his two brothers had joined their uncle on the Kimberley diamond fields in South Africa and were the earliest to reach the Rand after the discovery of gold. Joel faced his biggest challenge when the gold market was shaken by the aftermath of the Jameson Raid in 1896, when he was arrested but freed. This was followed by his uncle's suicide and the death of his brother Woolf, who was shot and killed in his Johannesburg office. Joel succeeded Barnato as a director of De Beers and chairman of the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company and other companies. Despite criticism, he successfully followed a policy of restricting diamond output to keep pace with demand and became one of the richest men of his time.

Solly Joel, who had a different suit for each day of the year, came to typify the new generation of millionaires produced by South Africa at the turn of the century, who were well known in London as well. He was a sportsman and a lavish host, a patron of the theater, and owned yachts, racing stables, and the Maiden Erleigh stud farm. In 1915 his horse won the Derby and the St. Leger and in 1921 he headed the list of winning owners. The career of his brother isaac barnato "jack" joel (1862–1940) resembled, in part, that of Solly, whom he succeeded as chairman of the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company. He was also prominent on the English turf, won the Derby twice (1911, 1921) and three times headed the list of winning owners (1908, 1913, and 1914). Jack Joel left a fortune of £3,684,000 at his death.


G. Saron and L. Hotz (eds.), Jews in South Africa (1955), 113f.; P.H. Emden, Randlords (1935), index. add. bibliography: odnb online; Dictionary of South African Biography; S. Joel, Ace of Diamonds: The Story of Solomon Barnato Joel (1958); G. Wheatcroft, The Randlords (1986).

[Lewis Sowden]